KANSAS CITY, Mo. – The Chiefs on Saturday kicked off the first day of a three-day rookie minicamp at the team’s training facility with 65 participants.
Among the group of players included all six members of the 2014 draft class, 11 undrafted free agent signings and 35 invited for a tryout.
Outside of some players who were on the Chiefs practice squad last season, rookie minicamp affords numerous players the opportunity to get introduced to the NFL.
Saturday also provided the chance to participate in drills, a lot of it coming on 11-on-11 competition, under the watchful eyes of an NFL coaching staff.
“It’s the first time they’ve put on a helmet here,” Chiefs coach Andy Reid said. “The first time they’ve tried this practice tempo here, the first time they’ve had offense versus defense, we haven’t been able to do that up to this point. I was happy with what I saw on both sides of the ball.”
Meanwhile, it’s important to temper enthusiasm when it comes to minicamp because players are in shorts and helmets, and not full pads.
Still, there was plenty to take away from Saturday, including:
No limitations. So much for concerns over a surgically repaired knee.
Quarterback Aaron Murray, who returns from an ACL injury suffered in late November 2013, participated in the entire afternoon practice, a session lasting more than two hours.
“We’re keeping a close eye on him,” Reid said, “(Chiefs head athletic trainer) Rick (Burkholder) is keeping a close eye. He’s done everything up to this point. He went through it today, and he’ll keep getting stronger as he goes. This was good because this was the first time there’s a pass rush on him, so he had to move around a little bit.”
For his part, Murray appeared pleased of what he was able to do on the field.
“The knee’s great,” Murray said. “It feels awesome. The best thing is there’s no second thought. There’s no while I’m back there in my drop, moving around the pocket, my rollouts, there’s no, ‘Be careful of the knee. Don’t step into a throw.’ It’s all just go out there and play and have fun and execute the play. It feels awesome. It’s doing extremely well right now.”
Murray threw four interceptions, two coming off tipped passes, during 11-on-11 drills. But for the most part looked fine, even tucking the ball and running after being flushed out of the pocket.
Also of note, Murray looked good moving around when considering he underwent knee surgery on Nov. 25, just six months ago.
Dee Ford announces presence. The team’s first-round pick (23rd overall) signed his contract Saturday, and then promptly turned in an interception off quarterback Aaron Murray on the first play of 11-on-11 drills.
“The biggest question is can I drop in coverage,” Ford said. “I think I answered that question. It was great teamwork, got batted the ball to me. I just reacted off of that. It was fun.”
Ford, who wore No. 55 instead of No. 90, later beat sixth-round pick offensive tackle Laurent Duvernay-Tardif off the edge with a pretty swim move.
The No. 55 is symbolic because it’s the number Chiefs great and Pro Football Hall of Fame linebacker Derrick Thomas wore at the University of Alabama.
“I’m not trying to be Derrick Thomas,” Ford said. “But he’s a guy that definitely inspired me. The opportunity presented itself, so I took it.”
Former Missouri star shines. Again, it’s important to not get too caught up in what’s done in shorts and helmet.
But it’s also hard not to ignore when a player stands out based on what he does on the field. One such player was wide receiver Jerrell Jackson, who played collegiately at Missouri.
Jackson made some nice catches in traffic, including a leaping sideline grab down the field over a defender.
Strong safety makes plays. Another player who made it hard for observers to ignore was former Brigham Young University standout, strong safety Daniel Sorensen.
Sorensen, who measures 6-foot-2, 208 pounds, recorded two interceptions off quarterback Aaron Murray, one coming on a tipped pass down the field and the other in traffic in the middle of the field.
On the right. The Chiefs’ sixth-round picks, offensive tackle Laurent Duvernay-Tardif and guard Zach Fulton, both spent time on the right side of the offensive line during 11-on-11 drills.
Duvernay-Tardif lined up at right tackle, with Fulton at right guard.
Dressler impressed. Is it too early to declare that Canadian Football League import, wide receiver Weston Dressler, is legit?
OK, perhaps it’s way too early to declare that because once again, the team is in shorts and helmet. See a theme here when it comes to tempering enthusiasm?
Nevertheless, Dressler looked pretty good coming out of his breaks and catching the ball with his hands. He also impressed during 11-on-11 drills by getting behind third-round pick cornerback Phillip Gaines, who runs a 4.38 40-yard dash, on a deep route.
Dressler wore jersey No. 13 as a request he made of the Chiefs when he left the CFL to pay respect to the Saskatchewan Roughriders fans.
Speaking of speed. Running back/specialist De’Anthony Thomas has quite the burst once the ball is in his hands.
“I just feel like I’m a playmaker,” Thomas said. “Wherever coach puts me on the field, I’m going to help this team get to the promise land.”
On one play during 11-on-11 drills, Thomas caught the ball out of the backfield only to have linebacker Ben Johnson, one of the team’s undrafted free agent signing, come up to meet him in the open field.
Johnson appeared to have the angle, but Thomas did a juke move and sprinted away from the linebacker to the sideline.
The team’s fourth-round pick also showed good hands. During warm-ups, Thomas snatched a poorly thrown ball at his knee with just his right hand and didn’t break stride.
UDFA wide receivers. The Chiefs didn’t select a wide receiver during the draft, but signed two intriguing options in Darryl Surgent of Louisiana-Lafayette and Albert Wilson of Georgia State.
Both players made the most of their chances during 11-on-11 drills. Wilson, in particular, looked very quick coming off the line of scrimmage.
As to what Surgent and Wilson need to do to boost their chances of having a shot at the roster?
“They need opportunities,” Reid said, “just more and more and more.”
Other signal callers. Aaron Murray wasn’t the only rookie quarterback on the field, as Jonathan Jennings of Saginaw State and Terrance Owens of Toledo were invited for tryouts.
Jennings has a strong arm, but at times struggled with accuracy during 11-on-11 drills. Owens, a southpaw, also has a nice arm, but has a long winding motion before releasing the ball.
Both face a steep challenge when considering the Chiefs already have Alex Smith, Chase Daniel, Tyler Bray and Murray.
Familiar faces. Some members of the 2013 Chiefs practice squad were present Saturday, including safety Malcolm Bronson, offensive tackle Chandler Burden, wide receiver Frankie Hammond, tight end Demetrius Harris, cornerback Vernon Kearney and wide receiver Fred Williams.
Harris came on strong towards the end of the practice with a nice catch after having some passes go through his hands.
Bronson, an All-American at McNeese State, spent time at free safety whenever he was on the field.